What if your vices could actually help you live longer?
A recent study followed 1700 nonagenarians to determine what makes people live to age 90 and beyond.
And the results are almost too good to be true.
The study revealed these 3 daily habits that increase longevity:
Drink Beer and Wine
That’s right — drinking alcohol was shown to have a statistically-significant impact on living longer, even when controlling for other factors.
Specifically, people who drank about two glasses of beer or wine a day (a glass is about 5 oz.) were 18% less likely to experience a premature death than those who abstained from alcohol.
“I have no explanation for it, but I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity,” said University of California neurologist and lead researcher Claudia Kawas.
This is consistent with studies of centenarians from the world’s Blue Zones regions — the places around the world with the highest life expectancy — where they often drink up to two glasses of wine every day as a way to downshift from the stressors of daily life.
So it’s possible that a daily happy hour extends your life by shedding stress. We know that stress leads to chronic inflammation, which is associated with every major age-related disease.
Or perhaps it is because drinking alcohol often brings us together with friends and family. Social relationships are vital for our health (not to mention the best predictor of our overall happiness).
Or maybe the benefits come from what’s in the alcohol itself. For example, red wine contains powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory benefits. People in the Blue Zones region of Sardinia, Italy drink Cannonau wine (from the Grenache grape), which is renowned for its high levels of polyphenols — antioxidants linked to heart health and protection from cardiovascular disease.
Whatever the reason, you can feel good about drinking a glass or two of beer or wine every day.
The research is clear — Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.
While we’re on the topic of drinking, coffee is another beverage that extends your life.
Drinking two cups of coffee per day was shown to reduce the risk of dying prematurely by 10%.
Previous studies revealed that drinking 3–4 cups of coffee every day could significantly reduce your chances of early death, and even drinking as many as 8 cups of coffee per day can help you live longer.
And the benefits hold true for all types of coffee — caffeinated, decaf, ground, instant, etc.
Daily coffee consumption is another common habit among Blue Zones populations. Centenarians in all five original Blue Zones areas drink up to two or three cups of black coffee per day.
How can the longevity benefits of coffee be explained?
- Coffee is loaded with essential antioxidants. Similar to red wine, coffee contains polyphenols that neutralize free radicals and help prevent disease.
- Coffee reduces age-related inflammation.
- Coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is specifically true for fully caffeinated coffee.
- Coffee lowers the risk of prostate cancer in men. This again could be because coffee contains many beneficial compounds that act as antioxidants, reduce inflammation, and regulate insulin, all of which may influence prostate cancer.
Coffee has also been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease and liver cancer.
All of this doesn’t necessarily mean you should start drinking coffee if you’re not already, but if you are a coffee drinker you should feel very good about your daily fix.
OK, so maybe this habit isn’t as fun as the previous two, but it is still pretty easy to achieve.
The nonagenarian study showed that those who engaged in moderate exercise every day (between 15 and 45 minutes) had an 11% lower risk of dying early.
So you can’t just sit on your couch all day long, but we’re talking about a very small amount of physical activity reducing your risk of death by double-digit percentage points.
I won’t belabor this point, since by now we all know that exercise is good for us.
The health benefits of physical activity have been well-documented — including helping to control weight, strengthen the cardiovascular system, fortify bones, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Exercise is also the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function.
The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
Even if you are only active for 15–45 minutes per day, clearly the health benefits are profound.
That is a very small time commitment to significantly increase your life span.
This might just be the best news you hear all day:
Drinking alcohol, drinking coffee, and doing just a small amount of exercise each day will help you live longer.
Cheers to that!
Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his email list at andrewmerle.com.